Young hemp plants being cultivated in a dry soil region.

Lesley L.

Farmers in Italy are planting industrial hemp in order to remediate the soil contaminated by a nearby steel plant; and while the farmers are unlikely able to return the farm to its former glory, they are hopeful that hemp will become their new cash crop, according to a CBS News report. Vincenzo Fornaro once had a herd of 600 sheep, used to produce ricotta and meat, until 2008 when the government discovered traces of the toxic chemical dioxin in the sheep and culled the herd.

The farmers are utilizing the phytoremediation properties of the cannabis plant – much in the same way the plant was used to help clean up contamination caused by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Phytoremediation is a process in which contaminants are absorbed by the roots of the hemp plant which stores or sometimes transforms toxins into a harmless substance.

Fornano believes that hemp is the future of his farm.

“We must innovate,” Fornaro said in the report, “and develop in a way that’s ecologically sound.”

Fornano has partnered with CanaPuglia on the project – a startup founded by Claudio Natile, who sells hemp products, including pasta, beer, and oils.

“Hemp is a versatile plant, with strong links to the Italian tradition, with thousands of properties, which over the years has been criminalized,” Naile said in a Slate report.

Hemp cultivation is legal in Italy so long as the grower informs police that they are planting a legal variety of cannabis used for industrial purposes.

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